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A philosophical position maintaining that human experience is the only ultimate source of verification. Absolute immanentism insists upon the self-sufficiency of man as the measure of all reality and defends its doctrine on the grounds that any supposed transcendence of reason would be, by definition, "beyond reason" and therefore beyond the scope of discourse or rational penetration.

Kinds. The various kinds of immanentism may be classified as metaphysical, existentialist, ethical, religious, and political.

Metaphysical immanentism restricts reality either to the data of human experience furnished by the senses, as in the empiricism of D. hume and his positivist heirs, or to the data of human thought, as in subjective idealism. Another instance is historicism, particularly as developed in the thought of W. dilthey and B. croce. This maintains that the only field of reference for all human knowledge and activity is history and that judgments must be verified historically or not at all.

Existentialist immanentism maintains that man encounters himself as "thrown" into a world to which all his acts are related intentionally. All significant action and thought grow out of the human situation in which man finds himself. It follows that any metaphysics of being implicates man as the articulation of being; this prevents any effective transcendence. (see existentialism.)

Ethical immanentism denies the possibility of an ethics formulated objectively and without immediate reference to the immanent or existential situation in which man finds himself. This position is related to situational ethics, which stresses the personal element in choice at the expense of universal moral principles.

Religious immanentism supposes the impossibility of distinguishing between religious experience and its object and teaches, as did W. james, that belief must be measured by human response. modernism, a heresy condemned by the Church, is related to this in attempting to reduce all dogmatic formulations to their subjective and historical antecedents.

Political immanentism reduces all reality to the state and denies man any transcendence of the political order. The doctrine is latent in the thought of J. bodin and N. machiavelli, and explicitly stated by T. hobbes. It is linked also with Hegel's insistence upon the state as the only synthesis capable of resolving the alienation and abstraction found in the individual (thesis) and his disappearance in communities such as the family (antithesis). This position is adopted, with some modifications, by Marxist communism.

Critique. Realist objections to immanentism have most cogency when couched in terms of an analysis of the concept of the immanent. Logically, the immanent makes sense in terms of the non-immanent, or of that which transcends or falls outside the immanent; it follows that the very meaning of immanence implies its own limit, i.e., transcendence. Phenomenologically or experientially, cognitive, volitional, and emotive experiences reveal man's being as structurally related to something beyond itself, as having meaning in terms of the other, as being intentional or "toward the other," i.e., as transcending.

See Also: immanence; intentionality; transcendence.

Bibliography: g. di napoli, Enciclopedia filosofica 2:127780 (Venice-Rome 1957). r. eisler, Wörterbuch der philosophischen Begriffe, 1:718721 (4th ed. Berlin 192730). p. foulquiÉ and r. saint-jean, Dictionnaire de la langue philosophique 348 (Paris 1962).

[f. d. wilhelmsen]